Number theorists have been trying to prove a conjecture about the distribution of prime numbers for more than 160 years

The Riemann hypothesis is the most important open question in number theory—if not all of mathematics. It has occupied experts for more than 160 years. And the problem appeared both in mathematician David Hilbert’s groundbreaking speech from 1900 and among the “Millennium Problems” formulated a century later. The person who solves it will win a million-dollar prize.

But the Riemann hypothesis is a tough nut to crack. Despite decades of effort, the interest of many experts and the cash reward, there has been little progress. Now mathematicians Larry Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and James Maynard of the University of Oxford have posted a sensational new finding on the preprint server arXiv.org. In the paper, “the authors improve a result that seemed insurmountable for more than 50 years,” says number theorist Valentin Blomer of the University of Bonn in Germany.